Striding Edge and Swirral Edge, Helvellyn
Distance 7.69 miles (12.38 km)
Total ascent 836m
Steepest climb 35% (1 in 3)
Time 6 hours (Walking)
Start/finish private pay and display car park opposite the Patterdale Hotel; alternatively start in Glenridding, NY395159
Nearest town Ambleside or Penrith
Terrain Well trodden paths throughout. The edges themselves are airy and narrow, with some very limited easy scrambling.
Seasonal variations Under snow this becomes a grade I mountaineering round (only just), and a real classic. Though very low in the grade it is frequently underestimated, and avoidable mishaps occasionally befall the underequipped (crampons and an axe are recommended). Be aware of any avalanche risk on the slopes leading from Striding Edge to the Helvellyn plateau, and watch out for cornices here and on the descent to Swirral Edge - which can also be very icy at times.
In summer conditions Striding Edge and Swirral Edge are airy walks with occasional hands-on moments, but too easy to be classed as grade 1 scrambles (despite what some people might say).
Weather and hill conditions mwis: Lake District – Met Office: Lake District
Public transport Occasional infrequent buses from Penrith to Patterdale
Guidebooks The Ridges of England, Wales and Ireland, Dan Bailey, pb.Cicerone
Maps OS Explorer OL5 (1:25,000), Harvey/BMC Lake District (1:40,000), OS Landranger 90 (1:50,000)
Accommodation Patterdale Youth Hostel 0845 3719337; Helvellyn Youth Hostel 0845 3719742; Sykeside campsite near Brotherswater 017684 82239; Gillside campsite and bunkhouse in Glenridding 017684 82346
Find more Classifieds near this route
Tourist info Ullswater (017684 82414); Grasmere (015394 35245); Pooley Bridge (017684 86530)
1 NY3956415928 From the A592 in Patterdale follow the single track road up Grisedale, climbing a steep hill and passing a house and a wooded dell. Just beyond the trees turn right on a side track, crossing a bridge to reach a gate on the edge of a field. Take the path through the field. Beyond a stone wall this swings left to make a long rising traverse up Grisedale’s northern slope (a bit of a trudge if there’s soft snow). At about the 710m contour is the so called Hole-in-the-Wall, actually a stile; cross this.
2 NY3592715488 The Red Tarn face of Helvellyn is now visible ahead. From the path junction take the route southwest along the broad crest. The ridge soon narrows into Striding Edge.
© Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com
From a minor top the crest continues as a gently serrated curving knife edge. Though it only demands very basic scrambling Striding Edge has a superbly airy feel (if you're really averse to heights a get-out path slinks along the N flank). Cross a level rock ‘pavement’, then continue over little bumps to reach a short downclimb just before Striding Edge meets the main mountainside. Negotiate this via a short broken groove on the left – polish shows the way. Beyond a little gap is a final rocky barrier, which can be skirted on the right or taken direct. A steep slope now leads to the summit plateau. From the memorial cairn at the top of this slope follow the plateau rim to the summit windbreak.
3 NY3415515157 Continue north along the edge, passing a trig point to reach a marker cairn above the drop-off point (hopefully not literally) for Swirral (not 'squirrel') Edge. Though shorter, this is a worthy twin to Striding Edge. Initially the descent is fairly steep and needs caution if it’s icy or corniced. Sticking with the crest, scramble down a broken rock buttress to reach easier ground. The ridge remains sharply pronounced for a while, though an avoiding path soon appears on the southern flank if you prefer. Beyond a shallow rise is a small col, and the end of the good stuff.
The outlying pyramid of Catstye Cam can be bagged from here in about 10 minutes (optional). Back at the col, a well trodden path drops quickly into the cove.
4 NY3503315422 Cross the outflow from Red Tarn and continue beneath the northern slope of Striding Edge back to Hole-in-the-Wall. Return the way you came.